Uprooted Trees in Austin Follow the Recent Excess Rainfall
For Austin residents, landscaping typically involves selecting plants and trees that require minimal water since the area is so dry. As such, rain is usually a welcome event, giving plants some much-needed water without having to worry about irrigation or water restrictions. Excessive rainfall, however, like that seen in the last few months in Austin and other Texas cities, can cause its own problems. The rain can weaken the roots of the trees or even push them down via flooding. That is why so many Austin trees have been uprooted following the recent rain storms. Home and property owners can take steps to minimize their risk or make sure their trees didn’t suffer unknown damage during the last rainfall.
Recent Wet Weather in Texas
During the month of May, Texas made national and international headlines with its massive rainfalls and the accompanying storms. In fact, May 2015 saw the highest average rainfall for the state on record, 8.81 inches. This month became the wettest May in the record books and the third wettest month for Austin, with 17.59 inches. Records were also set at Austin Bergstrom International Airport where there were 13.44 inches of rain. All this rain meant that Texas residents have officially seen what happens at either end of the spectrum: if trees don’t get enough water and if they get too much.
How Storms Damage Trees
There are numerous ways that storms damage trees, including wind, rain, and lightning. Some trees will be damaged or even completely uprooted due to tornados or high winds. Others will be struck by lightning and yet others will be pushed over by fast-moving floodwaters in areas without sufficient drainage. All of these things happened throughout Texas in May, making it difficult for experts to determine a breakdown of how many trees were uprooted by each cause.
If you take a look at various areas in Austin, it quickly becomes clear that some trees withstood the same conditions that brought others to the ground. This is partially due to a concept known as windthrow, which means that the tree trunk acts like a lever so trees with taller trunks will notice more pressure on their roots, making them more prone to falling over.
It is also possible that a tree will have pre-existing wood decay, cracks, or other issues that make it more likely to experience damage or simply weaken a portion of the tree. Generally speaking, trees have a higher risk of being damaged by storms when they are larger in size and planted in either shallow soil or an area that is rocky in nature. Those with more leaves and branches near the top of the trunk than the bottom are also more prone to being uprooted due to their high center of gravity and the branches weighing down the top portion.
Excess Rain’s Effects on Trees
There are actually plenty of different ways that the wet weather in Austin has had a negative impact on trees. Many fungi prefer moist and damp environments, meaning that when the tree and/or soil become wet, they will grow in numbers, increasing the damage they cause. As mentioned earlier, if there is enough rain to flood the area, such as occurred in parts of Austin, the water may exert more force than the trees can handle. This leads to trees being knocked over by the water or even swept up in the flow. Other objects in flowing floodwaters can also crash into trees, damaging or uprooting them. Trees may also be weakened by water that saturates the soil too completely, as this can prevent them from receiving oxygen through their roots and may even cause die-back.
Ways Heavy Rain Can Uproot Your Trees
Although the floodwaters are the easiest cause of uprooted trees for most people to understand, they are not the only cause related to heavy rainfall; the soil also plays a key role. No arborist will give you a minimum amount of rain needed to uproot a tree. Instead, they will tell you that it depends on the soil in the area and the tree’s overall health, particularly that of its roots. Because Austin does not typically experience heavy rainfalls, the city and surrounding area don’t have the most efficient drainage system in place. This means that a small amount of rain has a large impact on trees in Austin than it would in an area of the country with better drainage. This occurs as the water accumulates in the soil, leading to roots getting damp and the soil texture and size changing.
Keep in mind that the roots of a tree need to meet very specific standards in order to create a solid base that isn’t likely to be knocked over. Roots that are planted too deep may get stem-girdled and begin to grow upwards where they weaken and compress by wrapping around the base of the tree. Shallow roots, on the other hand, can reduce the tree’s ability to stay firmly within the soil. This leaves trees with roots that are too deep or too shallow prone to uprooting in inclement weather.
Whether a tree’s roots are at the ideal depth, wet soil will always make small changes in the texture and shape of the soil, leaving the roots open to increased mobility. When the soil becomes too wet, this mobility may increase even more, leading to the tree falling over or being uprooted.
Cleaning Up the Damage
If trees on your property become damaged due to heavy rain in Austin, or any other cause, you should consult an arborist for advice on how to clean up this damage. In some cases, it may even be possible to replant an uprooted tree, but for this to work, it will have had to suffer minimal damage and the roots must be intact. Otherwise, the arborist or a tree service company can help you remove any remnants of the fallen tree.
Risk Assessment of Your Trees
Not all damage to trees due to wet weather will occur immediately and this means that if you are in a part of Austin that was hit heavily by storms, you should have an arborist make sure your trees are not at risk. They will evaluate factors such as the lean of the tree, infestations, possible decay, and cracks.